Christianity broadly consists of individuals who believe in the deity Jesus Christ. Its followers, called Christians, often believe Christ is "the Son" of the Holy Trinity and walked the earth as the incarnate form of God ("the Father"); most Christians believe Christ will return at the end of the world. Islam consists of individuals who believe in Allah, a deity whose teachings its followers—Muslims—believe were recorded, verbatim, by the god's last prophet, Muhammad. Though both Christianity and Islam are Abrahamic religions that are mostly or strictly monotheistic, they differ in many ways, and with well over a billion followers within each faith, even adherents' specific beliefs vary considerably by region and sect/denomination.
|Place of worship||Church, chapel, cathedral, basilica, home bible study, personal dwellings.||Mosque/masjid, any place which is considered clean by Islamic standards.|
|Place of origin||Roman province of Judea.||Arabian Peninsula.|
|Practices||Prayer, sacraments (some branches), worship in church, reading of the Bible, acts of charity, communion.||Five pillars: Testament that there is one God and Muhammad is his messenger (shahadah); prayer five times daily; fast during Ramadan; charity to the poor (zakat); pilgrimage (Hajj).|
|About||Christianity broadly consists of individuals who believe in the deity Jesus Christ. Its followers, called Christians, often believe Christ is "the Son" of the Holy Trinity and walked the earth as the incarnate form of God ("the Father").||Islam consists of individuals who believe in Allah, a deity whose teachings its followers—Muslims—believe were recorded, verbatim, by the god's last prophet, Muhammad.|
|Religious Law||Has existed among Catholics in the form of canon law.||Sharia law, or law that is loosely or strictly based on the Qur'an, exists in many countries that have a majority Muslim population. Only some regions with sharia law apply it to judicial or criminal issues.|
|Sacred Texts||Christian Bible (includes Old and New Testaments). What is considered canon may vary slightly by sect/denomination. Some groups, like Mormons with the Book of Mormon, have other important books, too.||While the Qur'an is the only holy text of Islam, the Hadith, which is said to be the sayings of Muhammad, is also highly revered.|
|Symbols||Cross, ichthys ("Jesus fish"), Mary and baby Jesus.||None that are universal, though Muhammad's name in calligraphy is common. The popular star and crescent symbol is also common, but mainly relates to historical and political issues, not necessarily religious ones.|
|Important Tenets||The Ten Commandments, John 3:16.||The Five Pillars of Islam among Sunni Muslims and the Seven Pillars of Islam among Shia Muslims. The Shia Twelvers also have the Ancillaries of the Faith.|
|Revered People||Varies by sect/denomination. Saints, the Pope, cardinals, bishops, nuns, church pastors, or deacons.||Prophets, imams (spiritual leaders).|
|On Women||Varies. Some Christians view women as equal to men, while others believe women should be subservient to men. Clothing and health choices (e.g., birth control, abortion) may be restricted. Old Testament advocates stoning adin some cases.||Varies. Some Muslims view women as equal, while others believe women should be subservient. Clothing is usually controlled (e.g., hijab, burqa); health choices may be restricted. Surat An-Nisa 4:34 allows for "light beating" of "disobedient" wives.|
|On Race||All races generally viewed equal in modern Christianity. However, Bible passages on slavery were used to support the practice in the past in the U.S. The "curse of Ham" was sometimes thought to be black skin; modern interpretations reject this.||Races generally viewed as equal, but those that accept Islam are viewed more favorably than those that do not. "Among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors..." —Surat 30:22|
|Holy Days||Christmas (celebration of the birth of Jesus), Good Friday (death of Jesus), Sunday (day of rest), Easter (resurrection of Jesus), Lent (Catholicism), saints' feast days.||Ramadan (month of fasting), Eid-ul Adha (feast of the sacrifice), Eid-ul Fitr (sweet festival at the end of Ramadan).|
|On Clothing||Conservative Christians dress modestly; women may cover their heads, wear long skirts or dresses; men may wear dress clothes that do not show the chest, legs, and arms. More moderate or liberal Christians generally reject such clothing restrictions.||Women must present themselves modestly to cover hair and body shape. Men must be modestly dressed and covered from waist to knee. In most Muslim culture, women wear a form of the hijab; in some, they must wear the full-body cover known as the burqa.|
|On Food/Drink||Though the Old Testament of the Bible says certain meats should not be consumed, Christians usually feel this information does not apply to them (in the New Testament) and so eat what they want to eat.||Muslims are only supposed to eat foods that are considered halal.|
|Number of Adherents||An estimated 2.1 billion, largest religion in the world.||An estimated 1.5 billion, second largest religion in the world.|
|Year Formed||28-33 CE.||610-622 CE.|
|Original Languages||Aramaic, Common (Koine) Greek, Hebrew.||Arabic.|
|View of Jesus||God in human form, "Son of God," savior. Death by crucifixion. Most, though not all, of Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, was taken up into heaven, and will return during an apocalypse.||Prophet from Allah whose message has been misinterpreted or corrupted. In Islam, Jesus did not die, but was taken into heaven. A disciple died instead. Some believe Christ will return in an apocalypse, but the significance of his return varies.|
|Influenced By||Hellenistic Judaism, Jewish folklore, Greco-Roman paganism, monotheistic Zoroastrianism.||Judaism, Christianity, monotheistic Zoroastrianism. Customs of the pagan religions of the Arabian Peninsula that already had pilgrimages to Mecca.|
|Founders and Early Leaders||Jesus, Peter, Paul, James.||Muhammad, Abu Bakr.|
|Primary God(s)||A single, all-powerful god known as God that is typically thought of in "trinity" form: God, the Father; Christ, the Son; and the Holy Spirit (or Ghost). Not all sects/denominations of Christianity believe in the Trinity.||Only Allah, who is seen as being all-powerful. "They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah." —Surat Al-Ma'idah 5:73|
|Spiritual Beings||Angels, demons, spirits, nephilim (giants who were the offspring of fallen angels and human women).||Angels, demons, spirits, jinn (genies).|
|Most Common Sects||Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant.||Sunni, Shia.|
|Views on Sacred Texts||Varies from literal, fundamentalist interpretations, to the belief that the Bible is fallible and filled with metaphors.||Varies, but more Muslims than not feel the Qur'an is literally the word of Allah, as passed down through Muhammad.|
|On Other Religions||Many Christians believe all other religions are false. Moderates may or may not believe this. "Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips." —Exodus 23:13||Most Muslims believe all other religions are false. "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day...until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." —Surat At-Tawbah 9:29|
|On Atheism||Varies. Some believe atheists will go to hell because they do not believe in God; others believe God does not operate that way. "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, their deeds are vile..." —Psalm 14:1||Varies, but atheism can be very dangerous in some Muslim nations. "O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed." —Surat At-Tawbah 9:73|
|On Marriage/Divorce||Definition of marriage and divorce acceptance varies by sect/denomination. Bible includes examples of polygamy and monogamy and only condones divorce in cases of adultery.||According to the Qur'an, men may marry more than one woman, but no more than four, as long as he can support them and treat them fairly. Divorce easy for men, difficult for women.|
|On LGBT||Varies. Christians who believe in more literal interpretations of the Bible rarely accept homosexuality; some see it as a crime. "Do not be deceived...men who have sex with men...will not inherit the kingdom of God." —1 Corinthians 6:9-10||Varies, but generally homosexuality is not accepted. Verses from the Qur'an condemn it and modern fatwas (Islamic law interpretation) often ban homosexuality as a crime.|
|On Money||Tithing / charitable giving. "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." —Jesus in Matthew 19:24||Zakat (charitable giving). "And know that your possessions and your children are but a trial (fitnah) and that surely with Allah is a mighty reward." —Surat Al-'Anfal 8:28|
|On Apocalypse||Most, though not all, Christians believe Christ will return during an apocalypse that includes famine, war, and plague.||Some Muslims believe Jesus will return at the end of the world; the difference is that they believe his return is a sign, not the actual end. Other Muslims believe Jesus is a minor figure and that Islam's 12th imam, Mahdi, will cleanse the world.|
|On Afterlife||Eternal life in heaven (paradise) or hell (torment). Some Catholics believe in purgatory (limbo, temporary punishment).||Eternal life in heaven (paradise) or hell (torment).|
Contents: Christianity vs Islam
In many ways, Christianity and Islam were radical for their times, often preaching tolerance, respect, and equality between different races and classes, despite rigid monotheism. This initial progressive nature resulted in considerable persecution but ultimately did not stop the development, evolution, or expansion of either religion. Ultimately, early Christianity and Islam were spread by exploration, trade, missions, warfare, and colonization.
According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ had a number of followers prior to his execution in Golgotha, but the concept of Christianity as a religion did not truly exist until after his crucifixion, when his most ardent followers, such as the Roman Apostle Paul, began writing and speaking of Christ's reported miracles.
Christianity acquired many of its terms and beliefs from the Hellenistic Judaism and Greco-Roman paganism that were dominant at the times and places of Christianity's earliest development. The Roman Empire, with its common language—Latin—crossing great swaths of land, helped spread Christianity, especially after Emperor Constantine (around 300 CE) converted to the religion, ordered the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and adopted the cross for his army's banners. To learn more about early Christianity, its development, and the spread of the religion, watch the Crash Course video below.
By the time Islam was formed in 622 CE, Roman Catholicism, the most widespread form of Christianity, already had its 69th Pope—Pope Boniface V. In Mecca, in the Arabian Peninsula where Islam began, there was a melting pot of faith that included Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and those who worshipped Mesopotamian gods. It was in this place and time that Muslims believe Muhammad was visited by the angel Gabriel and told to begin writing down the word of the one true god, Allah.
Many in the region saw monotheism as a threat, eventually forcing Muhammad to migrate with his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE in what is known as the Hijra. Most consider this the beginning of Islam as a religion, as the migration brought many new followers to the fledgling faith. In 630 CE, Muhammad and his followers were able to return to Mecca in a near-bloodless conflict.
Murji'ah, an early Islamic philosophy that promoted tolerance of a wide variety of beliefs within Islam (leaving the judgment of Muslims to Allah), likely smoothed the way for early conversions. Within 100 years, Islam had spread rapidly east and west of the Arabian Peninsula. A Crash Course video that covers Islam's development, expansion, and how it split into two main branches can be watched below.
Short Timeline of Christianity and Islam
Note: Dates are historical estimates.
- 5 BCE: Jesus is born in the Roman province of Judea. Christians generally believe he was "born of a virgin," Mary.
- 26 CE: John the Baptist begins ministry.
- 28 CE: Jesus begins his ministry.
- 33 CE: Jesus is arrested and executed by way of crucifixion. Christians believe he rose from the dead three days later and ascended into heaven. Christianity begins.
- 44 CE: James, Jesus' older brother, becomes a primary leader in Jerusalem's Christian community.
- 57 CE: Paul the Apostle is arrested in Jerusalem after failing to help Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians reach a compromise regarding the depiction of Jesus.
- 62 CE: James is stoned to death.
- 63 CE: The Temple of Jerusalem, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is built.
- 64 CE: Roman Emperor Nero blames Christians for the burning of Rome.
- 66 CE: Mark begins writing his version of Jesus' life.
- 70 CE: Rome takes over Jerusalem and destroys its temple, more or less ending the more Jewish branch of Christianity.
- 73 CE: Matthew and Luke write their versions of Jesus' life, partly based on Mark's version.
- 75-90 CE: John writes his version of Jesus' life.
- 90 CE: The Romano-Jewish historian Josephus writes of the life and death of Jesus. Scholars often believe his words have been tampered with over the years.
- 125 CE: The earliest surviving New Testament writing, written by John, is roughly dated as being from this year.
- 380 CE: Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire.
- 397 CE: The Councils of Carthage decide which gospels and other written works will be considered canon books of the Bible versus which will be considered apocryphal.
- 570 CE: Muhammad is born in Mecca.
- 610 CE: Muslims believe this is the year Muhammad is first visited by the angel Gabriel.
- 610-622 CE: Muhammad begins his ministry. Islam begins.
- 622 CE: Muhammad and his followers migrate from Mecca to Medina in what is known as the Hijra. The Islamic calendar begins and the Prophet's Mosque is built. The first Islamic state begins when a constitution is drafted that combines Medina's government with Islam..
- 623 CE: Muhammad marries Aisha. Muslims generally view this marriage favorably, but Aisha's age—nine, to Muhammad's 53—causes great controversy outside of the Islamic faith today.
- 628 CE: The Treaty of Hudaybiyah is created, allowing Muslims in Medina to make pilgrimages to Medina.
- 630 CE: Muslims peacefully overtake Mecca after the Treaty of Hudaybiyah is dissolved. Other faiths' idols are destroyed and Mecca becomes an Islamic state.
- 632 CE: Muhammad dies from an illness. Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law (Aisha's father), becomes caliph (spiritual leader).
- 633-655 CE: Islam is spread through warfare. Muslim armies take over Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Syria, the North African coast, and portions of the Byzantine and Persian empires.
- 650 CE: Caliph Uthman forms a committee to standardize and reproduce the Qur'an. Muhammad's dialect of the Quraysh tribe is chosen as the standard dialect.
- 656-661 CE: Islam's first civil war; the Shia and Sunni sects form.
- 675 CE: Sufism forms.
- 1096 CE: The First Crusade, a three-year battle between Christians and Muslims, begins.
Beliefs and Practices
Beliefs and practices among Christians and Muslims vary greatly across the world and among certain demographics. Within Christianity, Catholics and Protestants often have very different beliefs, and Protestantism itself holds denominations as varied as evangelical fundamentalism and Unitarianism. In Islam, similarly large differences exist between Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Muslims and their beliefs. These differences have run so deep that Catholics and Protestants, Sunnis and Shiites, and Christians and Muslims have sometimes warred against each other over their beliefs.
A few major similarities exist between Christians and Muslims. Both belief systems are monotheistic, encourage or require the practice of daily prayer, and believe in the importance of many of the same figures, though their interpretation of them is often very different. Likewise, certain basic principles are generally supported within both faiths: the Ten Commandments for Christians and the The Five or Seven Pillars of Islam for Muslims. Heaven and Hell, angels, demons, and spirits, are generally accepted by both religions, as is an apocalypse.
Similar to Judaism, Islam tends to have stricter guidelines or rules than Christianity does. In modern Christianity, most hardline rules are found in the Old Testament and more related to Judaism, and many of the rules found in the New Testament are downplayed. For example, Christians may or may not "keep the Sabbath holy" by resting, even though doing so is a commandment, and most freely eat whatever they want, including pork and foods not blessed by religious leaders, something that Muslims and Jews do not do under halal and kosher dietary restrictions.
Two of the biggest differences found among Christian sects/denominations when it comes to scripture have to do with how literally the Bible is interpreted, whether it is considered the inerrant word of God as passed down through various writers or seen as being "inspired" and metaphorical, and whether "good works" or "faith alone" is most important for entry into heaven. Some Christians believe the Bible should be at the foundation of all matters: politics, education, charity, etc. Others believe their faith is personal and private and that Christian scripture really only applies to Christians.
Muslims believe there have been many prophets and messengers sent by Allah throughout time, but that their messages have been corrupted by man. They believe Muhammad was the latest and final prophet and that the Qur'an is the only uncorrupted holy message in the world. The vast majority of Muslims believe the Qur'an is the inerrant word of Allah, as passed down through the Prophet Muhammad, and can and should be part of every aspect in life, even when it comes to matters such as banking, warfare, and politics. The governmental enforcement of Islamic beliefs and practices is known as Sharia law. In a 2012 Pew Research study on Muslim political beliefs, a majority of people in Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt felt laws should strictly follow the Qur'an, while people in Tunisia, Turkey, and Lebanon were less inclined to want their governments to follow the Qur'an.
Christians and Muslims' sociopolitical views often go hand-in-hand with how literally they interpret the Bible or Qur'an, with the most traditional and fundamentalist of both religions rejecting certain matters of gender equality, same-sex marriage, the theory of evolution, etc.
Belief in an imminent apocalypse that is soon to transpire varies by region among Christians and Muslims, but in many cases both groups do believe it will occur at some point in the future. There are many similarities between their versions of the apocalypse as well, having developed from similar or even the same texts.
Some Muslims believe as Christians do, that Jesus will be the one to return at the end of the world; the difference is that Muslims believe Jesus' return is a sign, not the actual end, and that his purpose is to destroy Christian symbols and convert Christians to the true religion of Islam. Other Muslims, such as the Shia Twelvers, believe Jesus is a minor figure in the apocalypse, if even present, and that a figure known as the Mahdi—Islam's 12th imam who has been hiding since the 9th century—will be the one who returns and helps cleanse the world of evil.
With over 2.1 billion followers, over half of which are Catholic, Christianity is the world's largest religion. Islam, with over 1.5 billion followers, is the world's second largest religion; Sunnis make up 80-90% of Islam's adherents. Because the two religions are the largest in the world, one or the other is generally the dominant faith in nearly every country, with a few exceptions in Asia where Buddhism or no religion is dominant.
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- Christianity's Missions and Expansion - Patheos Library
- Christianity's Origins, History, and Beliefs - Patheos Library
- History of Islam - ReligionFacts
- How Muslims View the Qur'an - ApologeticsIndex
- Islam Timeline - Faithology
- Islamic History - University of Georgia
- Islam's Missions and Expansion - Patheos Library
- Mapping the Global Muslim Population - Pew Research
- Most Muslims Want Democracy, Personal Freedoms, and Islam in Political Life - Pew Research
- Muslim Beliefs in Angels, Fate, the Afterlife, and the End Times - Pew Research
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- Wikipedia: Christian
- Wikipedia: Muslim
- Wikipedia: History of Christianity
- Wikipedia: History of Islam
- Wikipedia: Islamic schools and branches
- Wikipedia: List of Christian denominations by number of members
- Wikipedia: Origins of Christianity
- Wikipedia: Quran
- Wikipedia: Timeline of Christianity
- Wikipedia: Christianity
- Wikipedia: Islam